WHY MORE GRADUATES? All right, let's follow up since commenters never agree with my college-skepticism. For starters, let me say I have no objection to increasing the number of college graduates in the United States. One thing I do worry about, though, is this. Right now a hefty proportion of kids do go to college. When you try to increase the number of college-goers by subsidizing college attendance, the tendency is for the vast majority of the subsidies to accrue to families that would have sent their kids to school anyway rather than to the marginal families who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford it. Since college-bound kids come, as a rule, from wealthier families than do non-college kids, these schemes can often resort to upward wealth redistribution. The specific Clinton/DLC plan mostly avoids these problems, which is good, but I still think it's a strange thing for progressives to be prioritizing given that you can only focus on so many things at once.

The thing of it is that as you can read in Third Way's report (PDF) on "The Politics of Opportunity," Americans are already quite well-educated: "American students spend an average of 13.8 years in formal education�more than any other industrialized nation in the world except Norway" (see also Education at a Glance from the OECD). There's a real education problem in America concerning our large number of high school dropouts who, economically, end up doing quite poorly. But the economic problems we have vis-�-vis other rich nations -- rising levels of middle-class insecurity, enormous inequality, declining levels of social mobility -- aren't plausibly attributable to a shortfall in the number of people attending college. The statistics show that we have more people attending college than other countries do already.

--Matthew Yglesias

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